Monday, June 22, 2009

Tyrese Gibson: The “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Always Tyrese!

Tyrese Darnell Gibson was born in Los Angeles on December 30, 1978. He and his three siblings were raised in the Watts section of the city by his single-mom after his father abandoned the family in 1983.
A certified triple-threat who started singing professionally at the age of 14, modeling at 17 and acting at 19, he first found fame singing the slogan “Always Coca-Cola” in a series of commercials for a nationally-televised campaign. He also appeared in ads for designer Tommy Hilfiger before releasing his first album, “Tyrese,” which went platinum in March of 1999.
A couple of years later, he made a memorable, big-screen debut as the title character of Baby Boy, John Singleton’s riveting, inner-city saga set in the ‘hood. Since then, he’s received critical acclaim for his work in everything from 2 Fast 2 Furious to Flight of the Phoenix to Four Brothers to Death Race to Transformers.
Among Tyrese’s many accolades are an American Music Award, a couple of Grammy nominations, several NAACP Image Award nominations and being name one of the Sexiest Men of the Year by People Magazine. Here, he reflects on reprising the role of Sergeant Epps in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, a sci-fi sequel directed by Michael Bay and co-starring Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox.

Kam Williams: Hi Tyrese, thanks so much for the time.
Tyrese Gibson: [Exuberantly] Oh, come on now, we got to make it happen, baby. It’s for the team! For the team!
KW: How was it the second go-round on Transformers?
TG: You know what? When you see this movie, it’s going to blow your head off. Listen, I know you write reviews talking about films regularly, but let me tell you this right now. You are not going to be able to compare this movie to anything you’ve ever seen, man. And what an honor it is for me that [director] Michael Bay and [producer] Steven Spielberg would have me in mind to be a part of this franchise along with the rest of such a great group of actors. I love it! I love it! This isn’t even about me. I’m a fan of Transformers, as if I’m not even in it, because I grew up watching Transformers, for real. I got the Transformers toys, for real. I got an Autobot tattoo on my right forearm, for real.
KW: Wow!
TG: Yeah, I’m a real fan.
KW: Were you on location for the scenes shot in my hometown, Princeton?
TG: No, my character wasn’t in any of those scenes, so I didn’t go out there. But I did the nearby Bethlehem, Pennsylvania run, plus some other cities elsewhere in the U.S. and also outside the country.
KW: I got a lot of questions for you from my readers. Let’s start with Renee Patterson who says she’s heard that you’re the highest-paid black male model. She wants to know, what was your most memorable modeling gig?
TG: My most memorable modeling gig was being the first ever, exclusive African-American, male model for Guess and the Marciano brothers. That was a very big moment, historically, for my career and for everybody on my team who was involved in getting that deal done. It was just one of those things where it’s like, “Whoa!” So, what an honor it is to be a part of it.
KW: Laz Lyles wants to know what it’s like working with Michael Bay. She asks, “Is he as hyper and neurotic and anal retentive as everyone says?”
TG: He’s definitely hyper. He’s very structured, not all over the place. And he runs his set like the military. He definitely should be doing these movies with the military’s involvement, because he runs his set with that sort of discipline. I mean, it’s full throttle. But listen, he’s a genius… he’s way ahead of his time… and as far as I’m concerned, he’s going to raise the bar and set a new standard for how action movies and movies with special effects should be done.
KW: Laz also asks, was doing this Transformers much different from doing the other one in terms of what was expected of you as an actor?
TG: Absolutely! The first go-round, mentally, we were all hoping that the fans showed up and could appreciate the Transformers that we were bringing to the table. But there was no guaranteed audience just because it had been a successful cartoon and line of toys. Now, after they did show up for the first film, the pressure was on for us to deliver something big, better and badder, with more action and better chemistry amongst the cast. I read comments like that all the time online, where you can learn a lot about what people are thinking and what they want to see more of. I know Michael Bay does the same thing, and that’s what it’s all about, being in touch, stepping up, and giving the people what they want.
KW: What are the pros versus the cons of doing an effects-driven film?
TG: I don’t really see any cons.
KW: Do you have another dramatic role coming up?
TG: Yeah, a few. Some, I can’t speak on, but I want to make everyone aware of one project I’m very excited about. I’ve got my first comic book ever coming out. It’s called Mayhem. I did a huge deal over at Image Comics with Rober Kirkman, Eric Stephenson and Todd McFarlane. For me, it’s so amazing. We came up with an original image title, had a meeting with them, and they bought the comic book on the spot.
KW: Are you going to the Comic-Con comic book convention in San Diego next month?
TG: Oh, absolutely! That’s where it all started. I was out there promoting Death Race with Jason Statham. After I was exposed to all that passion and that energy, I was like, “Yo, I have to be a part of this world.” So, we’re bringing Mayhem.
KW: Are fans excited about it. How’s the early buzz?
TG: Here’s the statistics so far. It’s only been available in pre-sales for two weeks and it’s already through the roof. We’ve sold over 10,000 copies at just one store, Meltdown Comics. Plus, I’m on Twitter all the time talking about it.
KW: Do you have a website where people can order it?
TG: Yeah, they can go to And I have a special that I’m going to offer to your readers. If they call the store and order 15 or more copies of Mayhem, I’m gonna personally call them back.
KW: Really? You’re going to get a lot of people buying comics but expecting that call.
TG: We love it. It doesn’t matter where I am, I’m going to call them back with a personal thank you. They can call to order Mayhem at (323) 851-7223. That’s the store’s direct number.
KW: What else do you have on the horizon?
TG: I have a new TV show coming out on BET called First In. It’s a reality show like Cops, but about firefighters. We follow the fire trucks on calls, and go home with a few of the firemen to get to know a few of them and to see what their family life is like. The whole first season was shot in Compton. And we’re probably going to move to New Orleans or Baltimore for the second season.
KW: What gave you the idea for this series? I like it because my father was a fireman.
TG: I appreciate that. Well, me and my partner came up with it. I felt like I can play a hero in films, but to me the real heroes are the firemen, police and soldiers who put their lives on the line everyday. We wanted to highlight that. When we started in Compton, there were about 12 shootings a day there. And we captured some really graphic, but heroic moments there.
KW: What do you consider your best role to date? Let me guess, my favorite, Baby Boy.
TG: Yeah, that’s the one? That’s the one. It’s a film that everyone can relate to because there are a lot of single parents.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
TG: I can’t think of one off the top of my head.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
TG: No.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
TG: All the time.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh?
TG: A couple of hours ago.
KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan’s question: Where in L.A. do you live?
TG: I live in a community called Hancock Park.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
TG: As a Man Thinketh by James Allen.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays?
TG: I’ve got this single that just came out called Mayhem: Take Me Away Remix. You can download it for free all over the internet. I just want to make the world dance. It’s a house techno type of record, and it’s full throttle.
KW: Which is your preference: acting, modeling or singing?
TG: Music will always be my first love, because when you write songs, they come from your own heart, versus acting, where you’re delivering someone else’s words and trying to make them your own.
KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
TG: I think my biggest obstacle was my childhood, growing up in South Central L.A., Watts. Nothing about my childhood was easy. I always think about that. Who I am today has been defined by my childhood. So, my work ethic, my focus, my drive to want more and to achieve more all stem from my being so frustrated as a child and not having access to money, food, clothes or being able to go anywhere. Just that feeling of being stuck. Some people complain about it, but I decided to do something about it and make sure that this is not a part of my story anymore. I have a big heart. I like doing things for people. When I get hungry, I want to eat. I want to travel, I can travel. Money hasn’t made my life special. But if I get a flat tire, I can afford to pay for a tow truck, instead of being stuck on the side of the freeway. These are the sort of things that money has done for my life. You know what I mean? [Chuckles]
KW: Yep. The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
TG: Will Smith… Denzel Washington… Barack Obama… Richard Gere… Diane Lane…
KW: Diane Lane?
TG: Oh, absolutely, love her. She’s great. And my man Clint Eastwood. He’s amazing.
KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?
TG: My fans can help me by praying for me and my family, because what I do is not easy. There’s a lot of politics and a lot of drama involved. And a lot of things that people will never know about because I don’t talk about them. So, I just hope they’ll pray to keep me encouraged.
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
TG: I live my life by a few quotes that sort of shape my whole mindset. The first one is: “You can often tell how far your life and career will go based on the five people you spend the most time with.” Another is, “If you have a problem with your life, you should have a problem with the people in your life.” Add to that, “If you don’t reach beyond what you’ve already mastered, you’ll never grow.” People say that it’s a jungle out here, but the problem is most folks are always swinging from the same vine. You’ve got to go from one vine to the next, take that leap of faith, stretch your arms as far as you can and know that the next vine is going to be there, if you give it your best effort. And my last thought is, “You can’t get points today for yesterday’s game.”
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
TG: I see a man who is looking to achieve more, a man who won’t settle for what he’s already accomplished. I’ve only just begun.
KW: What do like to cook?
TG: I love cooking sea bass, mashed potatoes and breakfast foods. But I love being cooked for, too, when a woman can get up in the kitchen and work her way around and up and down.
KW: How do you want to be remembered?
TG: I want to be remembered as a man who was selfless, who gave everything of himself to try his best to make a difference in other people’s lives. Most people associate charities with just cutting checks and handing them out. But me, I like personally passing on information and knowledge so the people can figure out a way to get it done.
KW: Thanks for putting all your energy into such a great interview, Tyrese.
TG: No problem. Thank you.

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